The Winslow Bulldogs will meet the Coolidge Bears in the Arizona State 3A Conference Football Championship Game on Saturday at 7:07 p.m. at McClintock High School in Tempe. The Bulldogs earned their berth with a hard fought 19-14 come back victory over the defending champion Blue Ridge Yellowjackets at Mesa on Friday. Winslow takes a 12-1 record into the final game of the season.
The Coolidge Bears earned their berth with a 27-20 win over the Wickenburg Wranglers in their semi-final game on Friday. Coolidge takes an 11-1 record into the championship showdown.
The Bears feature a lightning quick backfield and a massive line. Junior quarterback Jesse Wheeler showed impressive speed and directed the Coolidge offense. Speedy running backs juniors T. J. White and Jamal McKinley and senior Jaime Cassillas could pose problems for the Bulldogs. Wheeler has also had considerable success as a passer with White and McKinley as favorite targets. The Bears have also shown an opportunist defense, blocking two punts for scores in one contest. Coolidge ended the season as the second rated team in the state behind Blue Ridge.
The only loss suffered by the Bears was a 21-7 set back at Blue Ridge in the second game of the season. Coolidge wins include a 21-14 win over Snowflake in the season opener, 44-6 over Mesa Red Mountain juniors, 33-15 over Seton Catholic, 59-7 over Globe, 41-14 over Florence, 35-3 over Sahuarita, 47-14 over Safford, 70-2 over Eloy Santa Cruz, a 48-0 revenge win over Snowflake in the first round of the play-offs, a 55-7 win over River Valley and the 27-20 win over Wickenburg in the play-offs.
Winslow has an impressive array of wins and employs a balanced attack led by senior quarterback Jordan Payne. The Bulldogs feature the running of juniors Dillon DeWitt and Mark Armao and senior Anthony Martinez, recently returned from the injury list. Senior transfer Johnny Butler has been the leading pass receiver. Sophomore Justin Powell has been effective as a running back, receiver and defender. Seniors Josh Stago and Matt Oso are valuable starters on both offense and defense. Senior Nick Anderson has overcome his injury and is again a leading force on defense and, when needed, in the offensive backfield. Mario Peralto has been a defensive stalwart.
First year head coach Adam Larsen has the rare opportunity to claim a state championship in his first year at the varsity helm. He is ably assisted by B.J. Little, Arlin Rogers, Richard Stock and Paul Montoya.